“The preacher guy that yells about everyone going to hell is here again,” is a whisper that circulates around campus whenever Jesse Morrell stands outside to preach every so often.
In his last visit, street evangelist Morrell and several others came to give the gospel message. Many listened, while some stood around to voice their own opinions contrary to what the evangelists shared.
Jesse Morrell, 28, is a non-denominational Christian from Connecticut. The past 10 years Morrell has been travelling, preaching on streets, universities and colleges, bars, club festivals, and anywhere he can get an audience.
Morrell converted from Catholicism to non-denominational Christianity when he was 15.
“At that point I was already selling drugs. I was a convicted felon. I was smoking crack. I was associating with gangs … My life was a mess. I was facing 5 to 10 years in prison for a second felony charge … And I also got my neck slit in a knife fight, and I realized how fragile life was and how I could die, and then I would stand before God.”
During his prison time, Morrell heard a bold preacher saying that due to sin, all of them were on their way to hell. Morrell never thought that before he was a sinner going to hell.
Later on, in rehab, he read the Bible, said the “Sinner’s Prayer” and became a Christian. By 17, he was street preaching.
“I never took it (Christianity) serious until I heard a preacher make it a matter of heaven and hell, life and death,” Morrell said.
Morrell’s focuses mainly on speaking at college campuses because he said he wants to “stand up and share my world view and to debate it and discuss it with students.”
Tyler Junior College has a strong Christian voice with many ministries involved to serve students and encourage them in their faith.
Mark Jones, the leader of the Baptist Student Ministries (BSM) felt as if the teachings of Morrell caused hurt and confusion to students.
“It (Morrell’s bold ministry) further, to me, affirms our presence on campus. And it should … even though I don’t agree with the way he treats scripture and the way he treats and seems to berate people … encourage us to be more bold in the way we love, and in the way that we serve.”
Ian Wade, a BSM minister from Wednesday night “True Believers” group has stood across from Morrell before and preached simultaneously, but a different message.
“When you look at gospel, the meaning of it means “the good news”, and this guy by name of Jesse, in particular … it (his message) is not good news because good news would be that salvation is free if you want it and accept it, and all you have to do is repent, but he doesn’t give you a change to repent, therefore it’s just condemning.”
“When the Holy Spirit leads you to do something, it doesn’t cause chaos.Things are not out of order. God is a god of order, Wade said.“
Wade said that last year he saw a young lady sitting down on the curb near the spot Morrell normally comes to preach. He said God led him to preach the gospel to her. The girl told Wade that there must be something different about him, because she was racist and didn’t like black people, but she didn’t feel that way toward Wade since he came to her in a different manor. Wade explained that the reason this girl accepted him was because the Holy Spirit led him to talk to her.
The Wesley Foundation is also another Christian organization that has a Christian dorm right across from Tyler Junior College.
“It doesn’t do much for our image,” said Reverend Sunny Farley, director of the Wesley Foundation, about Morrell’s controversial style of preaching. “What theworld needs is love, not hatred and all these kind of things.”
Dozens of students have sat or stood in the smoking area at Pirtle and have heard Morrell’s preaching.
Last semester Art Major Stephanie Lindsay was there last Thursday listening to Morrell preach. She said he pointed directly at her and called her a whore.
“I am an Atheist, but I believe everyone has their own rights to their beliefs as long as their not pressing it against anybody … not forcing it down their throat, the way that they (Morrell and the other evangelists) do it. It drives people away from church, and it’s people like that (who) make me not want to go to church, personally.”
Public Relations major Richard Salazar was also there last Thursday listening to what Morrell and the other evangelists were saying.
“Honestly, I didn’t let it affect me. I heard them last semester, so I was just already used to it. I was like, ‘ Oh, whatever, they’re here. They’re back.’ ”
Salazar said that since he knew what true Christianity was all about, he wasn’t affected by their views by any means.
“I feel like their view is just a wrong view of Christianity,” Salazar said.
As for Morrell, his Christian ministry of street preaching is a lifetime commitment.
Only time will tell for listeners of all different views, if what was said was effective in changing their mindset, or, on the contrary, making their current beliefs more concrete than ever.